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  • Kim Robinson

Melatonin Safe and Effective in Treating Sleep Disturbances in Autistic Children

Sleep disturbances are a common problem for many children on the autism spectrum. A new study from researchers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee has found that the sleep hormone melatonin is safe for long-term use in autistic children struggling with sleep difficulties. Sleep difficulties affect up to 80% of children with autism, creating problems with learning, behavior, and overall quality of life, lead investigator Beth Malow pointed out. Malow, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, said helping children get more sleep might relieve these issues. Melatonin is currently available as an over-the-counter supplement in the United States, and by prescription in other countries. Malow and her colleagues investigated concerns about the long-term effects of melatonin by building off an earlier study of a melatonin prescription called PedPRM. The study tested the compound in 119 children between two and seventeen years old, most with autism and a few with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, over a thirteen-week period. The study found that PedPRM improved sleep significantly more than a placebo. In the new study conducted by Malow and her team, 80 of the children in the previous study took melatonin for an additional 91 weeks, for a total of two years, with an option to periodically increase the dosage as needed. The researchers found that the improvements in sleep and quality of life persist long-term, and that melatonin does not interfere with puberty. “It really suggests that this is the sort of treatment that we should be thinking about when we’re seeing this incredibly common problem in children with autism,” Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Columbia University, said. Source: https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/melatonin-may-ease-autistic-childrens-sleep-troubles/

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